Possibly the most beautiful lizard on the planet, with a wide array of different colours and sub-species. Iguanas are such a tempting pet lizard because of this but there are some requirements which is why they are not the most popular kept pet lizard in the world and are currently declining in popularity to other small pet lizards like the bearded dragon, leopard and crested geckos.

We will start with the potential drawbacks first to find if they are right for you.

Space, you are going to need an abundance of space to house an adult iguana, custom built sizes or a complete bedroom may be required as they need the height and length to move around and exercise. A huge lizard that can grow to 7 feet long is going to need a large enclosure to move around.

Taming down some iguanas can be troublesome; baby iguanas need to be handled on a regular basis to get used to human contact from the off. This is completely unnatural to a lizard so is a must while young.

Long living species, an iguana can live to the age of 20 of slightly over, this is a huge commitment and should be thought through carefully before purchasing a pet Iggy.

Now we have these “cons” out the way and you are not put off and have suitable space, they can be one of the most rewarding pet lizards. Once they have been tamed down, iguanas can show affection and have a loving nature.

Taming An Iguana

Taming is largely dependent on their individual personality of the lizard but start handling as young as possible will give you the best chances of keeping a super docile pet iguana. Under the age of 1 year old, they are very fast but over years this will slow dramatically until 5+ years when they become quite lazy lizards.

If you have just got your pet iguana, give them at least 2 weeks to get used to their new environment and become comfortable, this also includes staring into the caging. Iguanas have great eyesight and will become stressed if they feel something is watching them without escape.

After this settling in period, start by handling 1once per week for around 10 – 20minutes dependant on their reaction to handling, if they become irritated slowly move them back to their enclosure.

Increase the frequency and time every month until you and your pet lizard find the sweet spot of what works for the both of you.

If you have a male, be careful and accept warning signs of puffing up and head bobbing as a reason to NOT handle for a while, iguanas can become very territorial during their breeding season.

Iguana Tail-Whipping

If an iguana does not fancy coming out their vivarium and want to be left alone, they will occasionally warn with a whip of the tail. When under 3 years old, this is only likely to cause bruising, but adults are so powerful they can break a human bone with a tail whip.

Please note, tail whipping only happens rarely and is a signal that they do not want to be picked up or messed with. There are many reasons this might happen and sometimes is your pet iguana is just having a bad day.

What you will need to keep a pet iguana

  • Vivarium
  • Food & Water
  • Thermostats and thermometers
  • Heating Equipment
  • Humidity increasing equipment
  • Bedding

Vivarium

A baby iguana will only need a small vivarium to begin with, 2-3ft would house a baby for around 6 – 12 months dependant on growth rate. Their housing will need to be increased yearly unless going straight a large size. Keepers have been known to go through 5 – 10 vivarium size increases as their pet grows.

This can add up to serious amounts of money just on housing, but as a rule of thumb, you pet lizard must be able to walk across their housing space and have more than enough room to completely stretch out (including their tail).

Iguanas love to climb and sped most of their time on branches basking or climbing around. An adult vivarium is best when it is as tall as the room, so around 7-10ft high. Floor to ceiling if you are unsure is ideal.

Heating The Enclosure

Firstly, UVB lighting is required 12 hours a day, this can be set on a thermostat timer to do it automatically, this will also help to increase the temperatures within the vivarium, due to the enormous size it will be needed. When basking on a branch this should reach temps of up to 115 degrees.

Secondly, you will need a heat-bulb such as a mercury vapor bulbs or infra-red to create a basking area of 95 degrees F. Using thermometers around their enclosure to monitor that in no place does the temp drop below 75 degrees.

What Do Iguanas Eat

Mostly iguanas live of fresh leafy greens in the wild, but they need other foods to ensure a good balance of nutrients. We will have created a full list of what a pet iguanas’ diet could be.

  • Dandelion
  • Alfalfa
  • Plantain
  • Nettles
  • Birch leaf
  • Ribwort
  • Bittercress
  • Clover
  • Mallow
  • Hedge-mustard
  • Pansy
  • Hibiscus
  • Rose
  • Nasturtium
  • Dahlia
  • Viola
  • Lilac
  • Fuchsia
  • Marigold
  • Snapdragon
  • Apple blossom
  • Lavender
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Optunia
  • Carrot
  • Bell Pepper
  • Marrow
  • Cucumber

 

  • Beech leaf
  • Hazel leaf
  • Hawkbit
  • Chickweed
  • Sowthistle
  • Bindweed
  • Spring Greens
  • Florette mix
  • Lambs lettuce
  • Watercress
  • Pak choi
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Berries
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Mellon
  • Fig
  • Wild rocket
  • Pumpkin
  • Parsnip
  • Sweet potato
  • Do not feed too much of:

    • kale
    • Lettuce
    • Spinach

If you plan on feeding a mostly green diet, ensure you have calcium powder to add once a week, simply sprinkle the given food with the powder and ensure that most of the meal has been eaten, calcium will maintain an iguana’s healthy bones.

Iguana lifespan & growth rate

Rescue centres get many iguanas coming in from the UK from owners who seen a tiny lizard and was not educated as to just how huge these lizards get, an average man is 6ft tall, this is the exact same as the average iguana including its tail. Their growth is rapid within the first 3years and begins to slow dramatically after this.

The lifespan for an iguana in the wild is significantly less than captivity, this is because they are more likely to get an untreated infection from a cut. Living on average 8-12 years in the wildlands and 12 – 15 years in captivity, either way this is a very long living species of animal but low in comparison to other reptiles.

Considering an iguana as a pet?

If you an experienced lizard keeper with good knowledge on what it is like to own a pet lizard, an iguana may be the right pet for you.
First time pet iguanas 90% of the time is a bad idea, the size, power, space and attention they need is overwhelming for new owners. We would recommend if you are looking to get experience looking after lizards before progressing, try adopting or being a temporary home for an unwanted gecko or Chinese water dragon.
Chinese water dragons are better starter lizards and are basically just a mini iguana to some degree, you will love the experience and they do not occupy a full room.

Iguana Facts

  • They live upwards of 20 years old; it is a large age but compared to other reptiles they are short-lived.
  • They not the best hugger, iguanas have huge claws and will regular give you accidental cuts on while handling, some pet Iggy’s will not want to be handled at all and will do everything to get away from you.
  • Just like geckos, iguanas can drop their tail if threatened, their original tail is stunning compared to a re-grown one.